Robert Mitchum, Charlotte Rampling, Harry Dean Stanton, Jack O’Halloran, Anthony Zerbe and even Sylvester Stallone are all featured in this 1970s adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel; the next recommendation from The Big Sleep in the Great Movies -100 Years of Film book.
Mitchum plays Phillip Marlowe, who is hired by hulking brute Moose Malloy (O’Halloran) to find his girlfriend, Velma. Despite the fact that she hasn’t contacted him in the 6 years that he’s been in the can for robbery.
Without much to go on, Marlowe isn’t quite sure where to go, but who is he to say no to a paycheck?
Along the way, he gets roped into a blackmail scheme, a young wife, Helen (Rampling) married to an elderly judge tries to seduce him, and a local gangster, Brunette (Zerbe) causes all manner of trouble for him.
Alongside that, Marlowe has a pair of cops on his tail, trying to arrest him for the murders that seem to be piling up around him, one of them, his friend Nulty (John Ireland) will at least try to listen to him, but his partner, Rolfe (Stanton) seems to be a bit on the take.
As the case progresses, we learn that it seems all the threads are connected, leading to a stunning revelation to what has happened to Velma, and how far Moose is willing to go for the woman he loves.
This version of the story doesn’t quite shy away from the sleazy aspects that proliferated Chandler’s original novel, including a sequence that sees Marlowe drugged up and dumped off in a whorehouse for an interrogation by a rather intimidating Madam (Kate Murtagh), and being threatened by thugs, including a very young Sylvester Stallone.
I definitely enjoyed this one, it was a nice take on the noir film, and wonderfully executed and acted, but there is something I can’t quite put my finger on that bothers me about it. And not just specifically this one, but a number of period pieces that were shot in the 70s, though the next thriller title is an exception. This one just looks like it was shot in the 70s and have people pretending they’re in the 40s, which is technically what is happening, but there’s something about the design, lighting, and film texture that says 70s instead of 40s. It kept me from enjoying the film fully.
It also took me a little time to separate my image of Marlowe as played by Bogart to this version played by Mitchum. The cynicism is still there, but it also seems tinged a little with bitterness as well. It’s a nice interpretation.
The one thing that made me smile was the running inner monologue by Marlowe that sounded exactly like a pulp thriller, down to the dime store dialogue and references.
This version, while feeling a little too stuck in the 70s, was a deliciously seedy noir film that featured some nice moments, great actors, and a wonderfully paced story.
Did you see it?